Thesis: American Culture the Effects of Divorce

Pages: 9 (2986 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 14  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Family and Marriage  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … divorce on American culture. Divorce is never easy on a family, and it affects every member of the family in many ways. It breaks down family ties, splits families apart, and can create poverty and despair in single parents. Divorce has had a powerful affect on American culture, literally and figuratively.

Marriage is one of the most popular and venerable institutions in American society. Little girls grow up dreaming of their "perfect" wedding, gay and lesbian couples fight for the right to legally marry, and fathers dream of walking their "little girls" down the aisle someday. However, marriage is changing in America, and divorce, once almost unheard of in history, has become much more prevalent. A group of writers note, "Marriage in America has changed a great deal over the past two generations, including increased incidence and social acceptance of divorce, cohabitation, premarital sex, and unwed childbearing" (Doherty, et al. 4). In fact, marriages declined in 2005, but divorces also declined to the lowest rate since 1970, something positive about a very negative subject (Editors). Divorce can influence every aspect of a person's life, it has a very powerful affect on American culture, because it frames the way people live, work, and relate to others, and it influences just about every aspect of how people are viewed and view American culture.

Men and women view marriage and divorce differently, and marriage and divorce affect them differently. While many men may be hesitant to marry and give up their "freedom," men tend to actually thrive in committed relationships. A journal author notes, "Men do seem to benefit simply from the state of being married. Married men enjoy better health and longevity and fewer psychological and behavioral problems than single men" (Hetherington). According to Hetherington, women tend to do well in good marriages, but in bad marriages they can suffer from a variety of health problems, from depression to immune-system breakdowns in bad marriages (Hetherington). Often, parents stay together when there are children involved; hoping to raise them in a friendlier environment, but often, the marriage becomes so difficult the children suffer anyway. All of these aspects of marriage and divorce combine to create a very complex issue that affects families and American culture in a variety of ways.

Social Networks

When a couple divorces, it affects each partner and their family, of course, but it affects other aspects of their lives, as well. Usually, a couple develops a social network of friends and family throughout their marriage. When a couple divorces, that social network alters, with some friends and family siding with the husband and others with the wife, no matter how amicable the divorce is. Hetherington continues, "Ex-spouses typically must cope with lingering attachments; with resentment and anger, self-doubts, guilt, depression, and loneliness; with the stress of separation from children or of raising them alone; and with the loss of social networks" (Hetherington). Thus, the social networks of the couple alter, and they may lose support from people close to them, with disastrous results. Without the support of the friends, they may face more difficulties adjusting to the divorce, and the cultural implications are evident. In American society, friends and relatives are basic to happiness and security, and the loss of these social networks can lead to a variety of problems, from depression to health-related issues. This affects the culture of the nation, as society must deal with the aftermath of divorces by creating healthcare and wellness support, groups to support the partners of divorce, and counseling to help friends and family deal with the divorce. Divorce does not just affect the partners, it affects those around them and with rampant divorce, and it affects society and culture by supporting disillusionment of marriage rather than supporting making marriages work. The culture of America is still built on marriage as the foundation of the family and the culture, and destroying the family unit helps destroy American cultural foundations, as well.

Children

Perhaps the biggest affect on society and American culture that divorce can bring is the effects it has on the children of divorced parents. Children suffer because they believe they may be the cause of the divorce, and they suffer in numerous ways that affect society and culture. Hetherington continues, "Both young children and adolescents in divorced and remarried families have been found to have, on average, more social, emotional, academic, and behavioral problems than kids in two-parent, non-divorced families" (Hetherington). This means that American culture is changed when the "perfect" family disintegrates, and society must develop ways to deal with children who are suffering emotional and behaviorally.

This can affect their entire lives, because studies indicate children carry the emotional baggage of divorce with them, and it can affect their relationships, their jobs, and just about every aspect of their lives. Two researchers note, "Children of divorced parents more frequently demonstrate a diminished learning capacity, performing more poorly than their peers from intact two-parent families in reading, spelling, and math. They have higher dropout rates and lower rates of college graduation" (Fagan, and Rector). This affects the entire culture of the country, leading to a level of society that is unprepared for adulthood and unprepared for the rigors of work and raising their own family. If enough children of divorce carry these poor foundations into adulthood, the culture of the country will change, in that relationships may not be so important to these children, and maintaining the foundations of society may not be so important either. In fact, studies indicate that children of divorced parents tend to want fewer or no children, live together instead of get married, and expect divorce (Fagan, and Rector), all ideas that could change the very culture of America if children of divorce continue to rise in numbers. Statistics show that sixty-three percent of children grow up with both their parents in the U.S., and that is the lowest amount in the western world (Editors). This is a startling statistic, and if these numbers continue to climb, as they have been, it could permanently alter the culture of marriage and family in America.

It is often difficult for children to adjust to live with only one parent and cope with all the rigors of divorce, as well. Another group of authors note, "Coping with continuing conflict between the parents and divided loyalty was particularly taxing for many children. Some, especially boys, regretted the more limited access they had with their non-resident fathers" (Butler et al. 188). Children suffer from many disruptions, as well, from changing schools to dealing with a new house, new schedules, and parents often gone for work that never occurred before. Another group of authors note, "It is well documented that divorce often involves a wide array of disruptions or stressors, including increased fights between parents, exposure to parental distress, changes in residence and schools, involvement with parents' new partners, and loss of time with one or both parents" (Wolchik, Tein, Sandler, and Doyle). Thus, children tend to suffer the most, and they grow up with many problems, they view families differently, and they can alter American culture if their attitudes and ideas about marriage and family continue to be negative.

Income and Poverty

Poverty and divorce go hand in hand, especially for single mothers. Fagan and Rector note, "Divorce generally reduces the income of the child's primary household and seriously diminishes the potential of every household member to accumulate wealth. For families that were not poor before the divorce, the drop in income can be as much as 50%" (Fagan, and Rector). In a culture that values wealth and possessions, poverty is the ultimate failure, and those who divorce and fall into poverty place an additional burden on society, creating the need for added social services and support. In addition, those in poverty tend to remain in poverty, unable to pull themselves out because of the poorer education and job resources that exist in poverty-prone areas, and so, the culture of America is worsened and weakened as divorced single parents fall into poverty and bring society down with them.

Another aspect of this whirlpool of poverty is the child support issue, and how many "delinquent dads" do not pay child support. Studies show that 84% of child-support payments are made by men (Editors), and that about $40 billion dollars is spent annually on child support (Editors). However, there are fewer statistics on how many parents do not pay child support, and how that affects the single parent family attempting to survive. Women who have never worked have to get jobs, they often have few qualifications, so they cannot get good paying jobs, and the family is reduced to poverty. They often cannot afford childcare, too, which only adds to the problem of finding decent employment, and the cycle of poverty continues.

Violence and Abuse

Violence and abuse has become much more prevalent in our culture, and divorce could have something to do with that rise. Doherty and his… [END OF PREVIEW]

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